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Schaumburg had the kind of amazing start that would have finished most teams.
Niles West had other ideas after giving up 22 of the first 24 points of Wednesday night's Class 4A New Trier boys basketball sectional semifinal in Winnetka.
Thoughts of an incredible finish loomed as a distinct possibility as the Wolves cut their deficit to 4 points on three occasions. A lesser team might have succumbed and let it happen.
Schaumburg (18-11) didn't as it fended off every threat to win 56-48 and advance to a sectional final for the second consecutive year.
"That was one of the best we've played," Schaumburg senior Kurt Kempema said of its stunning 22-2 jump on the Wolves after just 9:07. "But we always know we can play better and play harder than we do."
The 15th-seeded Saxons (18-11) will get another shot to do so at 7:30 p.m. Friday when they face fourth-seeded Niles North (23-6) for the sectional championship. The winner gets a trip to the Waukegan supersectional.
And the fact the Saxons played sectional semifinal and final games at Waukegan a year ago may have factored into a red-hot start that ultimately was too much for No. 11 Niles West (18-12) to overcome.
Niles West's eight-game winning streak was snapped in its first sectional semifinal appearance since 2004.
"I think the situation got to us a little bit," said second-year Niles West coach Bob Williams after his first game against the program he directed for 18 years. "We did some things we haven't done for a long time and went back to some bad habits.
"Once we got our feet under us we played a heck of a basketball game. But you get down 22-2 … they're a good team and a fundamental team."
And one that didn't give Niles West an opportunity to get closer than 4 points when it did so twice in the final 1:36.
Senior Javon McDonald (20 points) and sophomores Jimmy Lundquist and Kyle Bolger (12 points, 4 assists) each hit a pair of free throws in the final 57.5 seconds. Lundquist and McDonald both pushed the lead back to 6 points in 1-and-1 situations as the Saxons hit their last 16 free throws to finish 17-for-18.
"I thought we showed a lot of poise and showed a lot of confidence," said second-year Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh after his team's ninth win in 10 games. "That has a lot to do with all of the games we've been in this year with top teams. We've had an unbelievable amount of close games against a lot of good teams."
Not that it looked as if this one would ever get too close for comfort. Schaumburg sandwiched runs of 7 and 15 points around a rebound basket by Niles West's Alek Biser.
When McDonald nailed a 3-pointer from 23 feet he had 10 points and Schaumburg's fans were in a state of delirium with a 22-2 lead 6:53 before halftime.
"I wasn't shocked because we're a good team and we knew we could take advantage of their defensive pressure," McDonald said after the Saxons hit 8 of their first 13 shots to finish at 57.6 percent (19-for-33). "That lead was very, very crucial because they're a team that gets back in the game quickly with all the 3-pointers they shoot."
Ramsan Younatham (10 points) hit the Wolves' fourth of the second quarter and his pull-up jumper 52 seconds into the second half cut their deficit to 30-26.
The Saxons started their series of answers as Christian Spandiary (10 points, 5 rebounds) scored on a baseline drive to start a 6-point run for a 36-26 lead.
"We talked that we'd have to defend and hustle and play harder as a team," Bolger said.
"When it got hectic we knew we had to slow it down," McDonald said. "It was important to take it one step at a time and make them play defense."
Eleven turnovers in the final 13 minutes and Tony Pierce scoring 11 of his 14 points kept Schaumburg from extending its lead to double figures again.
But 9-for-13 shooting from the field in the second half and a 25-13 rebound advantage kept Niles West from ever making it a one-possession game.
"What we talk about as a team is keeping our composure and staying strong together," Kempema said. "When we're together as a team nothing can stop us."